IWPR Launches New National Work on the Status of Women in the States

by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D.

IWPR recently launched new work on its Status of Women in the States project, an influential series of research reports and data analyses that has provided reliable data on the economic, social, health, and political status of women for nearly two decades. With partial support from the Ford Foundation, IWPR is developing a national report with state-level data on the status of women, a report on the status of women in the U.S. South (including eleven Southern states and the District of Columbia), and  fact sheets on the status of women, one each for the 50 states and Washington, DC. This work will expand on IWPR’s long-running series: to date, IWPR has produced more than 100 Status of Women in the States publications, including comprehensive reports on each U.S. state and the District of Columbia, several city/area reports, and a series of reports and a toolkit on women in the Middle East and North Africa.

Developed in partnership with expert advisory committees, IWPR’s forthcoming reports will provide disaggregated data to explore how contextual factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation correlate with higher or lower status on a range of indicators. Following the methodology developed by IWPR in the mid-1990s, the reports will provide a composite index for each of the main topical areas covered—employment and earnings, social and economic autonomy,health and well-being, reproductive rights, and political participation—and assign letter grades and rankings that reflect each state’s performance in these areas. IWPR will also develop new chapters for the national and Southern states reports on work-family issues and violence against women. The reports will be released in 2015.

In the initial project phase, IWPR has established advisory committees for the national and Southern states reports consisting of researchers, advocates, service providers, business and labor leaders, media and communications experts, philanthropists, and policymakers. In later phases IWPR will enhance outreach and dissemination through website development and online engagement. The project expects to develop interactive charts and maps, downloadable data tables, and other data visualizations that will all be available on the website. These visualizations will make the findings more user-friendly and communicate information about the status of women in an engaging and succinct way.

This phase of IWPR work on the Status of Women in the States marks an exciting new chapter in the Institute’s ongoing efforts to provide reliable information that can serve as a catalyst for positive changes for women and their families. For nearly two decades, state and federal policymakers, journalists, advocates, and community leaders have used IWPR’s Status of Women in the States reports to make the case for improved programs and public policies. The project’s many outcomes include strengthening the case for millions of dollars in additional state and local funding for services that benefit women; strengthening or creating organizations, councils, or task forces on women; informing the economic agendas of local, state, and federal policymakers; and determining programmatic investments. IWPR looks forward to continuing to provide targeted state and national data to organizations seeking to strengthen local communities and society as a whole by improving the status of women.

To find out more information and to learn how to support the project, click here.

Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., is a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

Let’s shift up women’s representation!

by Marni Allen, Director, Political Parity

At the rate we’re going—with women representing only 20 percent of Congressional seats—we aren’t predicted to reach parity until 2121. The Washington Post writes that this estimation is on par with when humans are expected to begin setting up colonies on the moon.

We can’t wait 107 years to ensure women’s voices are equally represented in the halls of government. That road is too long. It’s time to shift gears.

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IWPR President Heidi Hartmann (second from right) discusses new research on women running for office. (Photo Credit: Fatah Sadaoui, Fatahgraphy.com)

Political Parity is putting the pedal to the metal. On May 21, Parity and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) launched Shifting Gears: How Women Navigate the Road to Higher Office, a report exploring how women build political careers. We were joined by researchers Bob Carpenter of Chesapeake Beach Consulting, Heidi Hartmann of IWPR, Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, and Shauna Shames of Parity.

Lake emphasized that the biggest barrier hindering women from seeking and securing public office is lack of access to well-resourced networks. Shames added that because of hyperpartisanship and the lack of diversity among current officeholders, women are less likely than their male counterparts to see politics as an avenue to address issues of importance to them. This disconnect between politics and positive change is deterring women’s candidacies.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards’ (D-MD) first candidacy challenged a seven-term incumbent in Congress. She shared that despite losing the first time around, this experience set her up for her future win. “If you don’t run risks, you don’t get to play in the game at all,” she said. “If you aren’t willing to run a second time, what’s the point of running the first time?” Former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey (R-MA) elaborated that “failure is an experience you use to pivot on for your next try.”

Transitioning into the importance of women’s voices in office, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-NJ) hit on a key finding in Shifting Gears research: motherhood is a motivator. “Do I think about [my kids] every time I turn in a bill?” she asked. “Absolutely.” So few mothers, she explained, are serving in office. “We need more women going through that stage of their life [in politics],” she added.

Shifting Gears sparked a national political conversation, earning three mentions from The Washington Post political blogs:

  • She the People featured the report findings and charts, focusing on women’s initial motivations to run, barriers to running, and strategies employed by female politicians on the campaign trail.
  • On Leadership highlighted our key finding that just 35 percent of female legislator respondents considered politics a career, and also addressed women’s lack of party support and limited access to informal networks for fundraising.
  • The Fix turned its attention to Senate primaries, citing what women in politics literature knows so well: when women run, women win. But not many women are running.

The Daily Beast published an op-ed by Parity’s Director Marni Allen and Research Fellow Shauna Shames, injecting Shifting Gears into the national confidence-versus-structure debate. “To encourage more women to run for office,” they argue, “we need to confront the personal, structural AND social barriers standing in the way.”

#ShiftingGears spurred a lively conversation on Twitter, engaging scores of activists, researchers, and media outlets to spotlight women’s underrepresentation.

We need your voice. What can you do?

  1. Visit and share the Shifting Gears research page on Parity’s website with the hashtag #ShiftingGears.
  2. Read, comment on, and share Shifting Gears coverage: She the People, On Leadership, The Fix, and The Daily Beast.
  3. Incorporate Shifting Gears research into your curriculum or organization’s programming, if applicable.

Join Political Parity in accelerating women’s electoral progress. We’re not waiting for 2121.

Marni Allen is the director of Political Parity, a program of the Hunt Alternatives Fund. Political Parity is a nonpartisan platform for accelerating the energies of passionate and dedicated leaders, researchers, and funders changing the face of US politics.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org